House Democrats Roll Out $16 Billion ‘Move Ahead Washington’ Transportation Package | Washington

(The Center Square) — State House Democrats unveiled their ambitious “Move Ahead Washington” agenda on Tuesday afternoon, detailing a 16-year transportation funding proposal with a $16 billion price tag.

“‘Move Ahead Washington’ is creating a sustainable and accessible future in transportation,” proclaimed Rep. Jake Fey, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, during a virtual conference press conference.

The package – consisting of Senate Bills 5974 and 5975 and Internal invoices 2118 and 2119 – aims to close a maintenance backlog on highways and bridges, complete projects already underway and spend more money on ferries.

“This proposal represents unprecedented investments in the preservation and maintenance of our roads to the tune of $3 billion, which will – together with the other elements of this package – create many family wage earning jobs,” Fey said. “We are also investing in electrification and expanding multimodal options for all to protect our quality of life and our future.”

By “electrification,” Fey was referring to funding four new hybrid electric ferries and electrifying two existing boats as part of the more than $1 billion planned for the state’s ferry system.

The transportation package fills the gaps in existing megaprojects, like the Gateway Project and its new segments of Route 167 in Pierce County and State Route 509 in King County, which was funded at $1.88 billion. dollars in the state’s 2015 transportation package.

Money from this new package would be used to complete the widening of Interstate 405 and State Route 16, as well as the State Route 520 bridge replacement project.

It would also fund Washington’s share of a new Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River in Vancouver and a new Highway 2 trestle to expand capacity between Snohomish and Everett.

Public transit would get $3 billion, including $150 million earmarked for high-speed rail.

Cyclists and those who prefer to walk wouldn’t be left out either, with more than $1 billion invested in active transportation projects for bikes and pedestrians, including the Safe Routes to School program.

The transport wish list is one thing, but paying for it is another.

Some $5.4 billion would come from new taxes and charges on big polluters in Washington, as approved by the legislature last year under the Climate Commitment Act.

Other proposed funding for the transportation program includes $2 billion from a one-time transfer from the operating budget; $3.4 billion from the Federal Infrastructure Investing and Job Creation Act; $2 billion in a new tax – 6 cents per gallon – on gas exported from Washington to Oregon, Idaho and Alaska; an estimated $956 million from existing bonding authority; and an increase in enhanced driver’s license fees.

Senator Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, was confident that the new taxes and fees would not trickle down to the middle and lower classes in the form of higher gasoline prices, and even took the time to brag about what was not in the expansive transport package.

“Investments in this package will help everyone, but more importantly they will not pass the costs on to working families,” he said. “We heard loud and clear that working families are still facing the brunt of the economic burden caused by the pandemic. This is why there is no gas tax in this package. We make sure to use the resources we already have, as well as modest fees and other resources that don’t impact our struggling working families, and invest them to improve the lives of all of us. .

Liias summed up his views on the proposed transportation package: “Washington is a national leader on so many issues, and we can continue to show our progressive values ​​in the transportation sector. From allowing children to travel free on public transport and ferries, to increasing public transport options and investing in road and pedestrian safety projects, it is a victory for our entire state. »

Democratic transportation leaders pointed to the issue of climate change as the reason for the lack of Republican involvement in the proposal.

“I think this package is unique because the cornerstone of it is the Climate Commitment Act, a bill that doesn’t have bipartisan support,” Liias said. “Unfortunately, our fellow Republicans have a different view of how to approach climate action in this state, and you can watch the last session’s indoor debate to see that we profoundly disagree on this point. So, when it came to allocating those resources, we were not starting from the same place.With the challenges of a 60-day session, we had to agree with our colleagues in the House to get something done.

Still, he remained hopeful for future Republican participation in the process.

“The door is never closed to a bipartisan partnership on this,” Liias said. “We will continue to work together to get him to the finish line.”

The first round of public hearings on the transportation package are set for February 10 before the Senate Transportation Committee.

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